The United States and Britain have accused Russia of releasing a cyberattack that impacted computers around the world and could be used to launch offensive attacks.
According to Reuters, the attack was launched on computer routers, firewalls and other networking equipment used by government agencies, companies and critical infrastructure operators globally.
The U.S. and U.K. released a joint alert warning that the attack by Russian government-backed hackers aimed to advance spying, intellectual property theft and other “malicious” activities.
“When we see malicious cyber activity, whether it be from the Kremlin or other malicious nation-state actors, we are going to push back,” said Rob Joyce, the departing White House cybersecurity coordinator.
Officials in both the U.S. and U.K. revealed that these recent attacks affected a range of organizations, including internet service providers, private businesses and critical infrastructure providers. Neither specific victims nor details of the attack were released.
“This is yet another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms and global order – this time through a campaign of cyberespionage and aggression, which attempts to disrupt governments and destabilize business,” a British government spokesman said.
The alert follows accusations that Russia has been behind a series of cyberattacks, including last year’s “NotPetya” virus, which impacted parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers at banks and shipping firms, among others, across the globe.
While the Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Russia’s embassy in London called the British accusations “striking examples of a reckless, provocative and unfounded policy against Russia.”
But U.S. and British officials warned that infected routers could be used to launch future offensive cyber operations.
“They could be pre-positioning for use in times of tension,” said Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the British government’s National Cyber Security Centre cyber defense agency, who added that “millions of machines” were targeted.